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Language and Learning Group Seminar: Laura Lindsay “How to preschoolers formulate their utterances?”


Next week we will have our next Language and Learning Group seminar meeting. Laura Lindsay will be presenting a talk entitled “How to preschoolers formulate their utterances?” The talk will be at 15:00 on the 3rd of March.



The transition infants make from understanding language to using language is a major developmental milestone. But getting to that point is a significant challenge: a typical child understands more than fifty words before they even begin to produce their first, and can parse complex grammatical sentences before being able to produce holographic two word phrases. This gap between comprehension and production exists because language production involves the coordination and overlap of a series of complex cognitive processes. To produce a sentence, speakers need to coordinate retrieving the correct words from memory and imposing a linear order on them, so their utterance is both grammatical and also conveys their intended message. Surprisingly, we don’t know much about how children cross this production gap. There has been a lot of work looking at how children learn the words and grammar of their language (funnily enough, by focusing on their production). Similarly, complex models have been developed to explain how speakers produce words and sentences. But very little work has actually combined these two fields to investigate how the mechanisms underlying children’s production system develops. In this talk, I will present two eyetracking experiments asking whether preschoolers formulate their utterances in the same way as adults. To do this, we tracked their eye movements as they described simple pictures. Specifically, we asked two separate but related questions: 1) what strategy do children use to guide sentence formulation and is this the same as adults, and 2) what online processes do children use during sentence production, and are these the same as adults? To answer these questions, we analysed how children and adults inspected the pictures before speaking – telling us about the strategies they used to guide sentence formulation – and also how they inspected the pictures whilst speaking – telling us about the online processes during sentence production. Overall, our results suggest that preschoolers and adults formulate their utterances in similar ways.

Contact: Jacob Barker

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